Demand for Canberra's acute mental health beds has grown dramatically over the last 10 years as the government struggles to contain often overflowing wards.
Consumer advocates say it is now common for people seeking high level care to be told they are not sick enough and turned away.
The most recent available statistics from the productivity commission show demand for ACT's acute mental health beds has grown by 50 per cent since 2006/07, while it has remained mostly stable across the country.
During that same period only three extra acute mental health beds were made available despite 9074 more patient days.
The lack of extra beds has equated to a 18-per-cent drop in the number of mental health acute care beds per 100,000 people available in the ACT in the face of increasing demand.
Adding further strain, the number of psychiatrist services has dropped as the ACT continues to struggle to retain and recruit psychiatrists.
The figures show the ACT had 46.9 psychiatric services per 10,000 people in 2015/16 - the second lowest in the country behind the NT - which was down on 56.4 in 2008/09.
Minister for Mental Health Shane Rattenbury said the government had opened six short stay beds at Canberra Hospital that were not included in latest available data.
It was not clear how much demand increased in that same period.
Mr Rattenbury said six psychiatrist positions would be offered at the end of the month in adult general and speciality areas, saying a shortage of psychiatrists was a nation-wide problem.
"The ACT has a range of great mental health programs and services that are staffed by a dedicated and passionate workforce," he said.
"However, the Government acknowledges that often what people see is a number of high quality services as opposed to a well-integrated system. ACT Health is committed to enhancing our current systems to provide effective mental health services when and where they are needed most.
"That is why we invested $23 million into mental health services in the 2017-18 ACT Budget and why we are working to get the Office for Mental Health established this year."
But chair of Terri Warner ACT Mental Health Consumer Network said if the government was adequately investing in community and preventative services there would not be huge increases in people seeking acute services.
She said she regularly heard from people who were turned away from hospital after being told they were not sick enough.
"We also regularly hear stories about extended stays stretching out to weeks in the short stay beds," she said.
"They are using the beds for overflow form the acute ward which is not what they were designed for.
"When you've identified that you need help, to then be told you are not unwell enough can cause an exacerbation of a person's condition."
Ms Warner called on the government to increase funding for both acute and community based services.
Opposition spokeswoman for health Vicki Dunne said the ACT's mental health system was in a dangerous position.
"Canberrans who battle with their mental health often come against significant roadblocks when they try to get help," she said.
"To put it simply, we don't have enough acute mental health beds and we don't have enough mental health professionals.
"For the better part of last year, the mental health unit at The Canberra Hospital was maxed out with an average bed occupancy rate of 105 per cent.
"Underscoring this, there aren't enough mental health professionals to meet demand. In 2016-17, we fell well short of the national average with only 32 full-time staff per 100,000 people compared to 54 nationally.
"I am often told patients have to go interstate to get help. Unable to get the treatment they need in Canberra, there is a real likelihood that some mental health patients may slip through the cracks.
"Minister Rattenbury keeps referring these issues to his Office for Mental Health, which still doesn't exist. We need to close these gaps now."
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